Thursday, January 27, 2011

Breaking the Facebook Habit

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately on concepts of my “real life” vs “virtual life.”  The result is a string of only somewhat-related potential-posts that are wound tightly together in my head, but may not make all that much sense to others.  Oh well, it’s my blog. J  But, I have to admit that my thoughts are all over the place. Stay with me, I have a few points, I promise.

Secondly, I also should note the obvious - my blogging habits have become downright embarrassing.  Oh, I have such good intentions.  Thoughts about topics and posts swirl around my cluttered head often.  But actually making myself take the time to put pen to paper (so to speak) and then post to the blog… yeah, not happening much (obviously). 

But I miss it.  I miss having this virtual journal. I enjoy looking back at posts from several years ago and being able to recapture those feelings. I love being able to step back and be in the moment again.  And I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about “being in the moment” generally…  

Ironically, for this reason I also deactivated my facebook account.  My decline in blogging corresponded greatly to my increase in facebooking  (yes, I’m going to use that as a verb).  It was so easier to share my story in 140 characters or less, throwing up quotes and random thoughts at my whim (and from my phone…) without much thought to how I wanted to phrase things or what clip art might accompany the post.   I also started spending too much time looking at what other people were throwing around.  At first, this was great – I caught up with old friends, connected with new friends, stayed in touch across long distances.  But I had to be honest – those virtual connections were keeping me remote.  I didn’t have to call a friend (or even text or email) for her birthday – I could just post on her wall!  Have general news to share?  Well, just update my status and most everyone would figure it out. 

I started to realize this was problematic when I missed that a friend of mine was in a play.  She had posted things about it on her wall, which I either missed or misunderstood, and by mistake an email on the topic went to Mark and not me.  Well, the end result is that some other friends made plans to go to the play and I didn’t go.  After the fact, I heard she was absolutely fantastic!  At first, I was upset that my other friends never called to see if I wanted to go with them to play. I was willing to lay the blame of my missing it on anyone else’s feet.  After all, would it have been THAT hard to call me up and see if I wanted to go?  But the more I thought about it, the more I was sad that I completely missed this for her – that I did not realize what had spent the better part of her fall doing!  I knew a lot of random facts about people that I didn’t even really care about much any more, yet I missed this real event that I could have attended in person.  And I couldn’t blame THAT on anyone but myself.

I also noticed it on my birthday. I enjoyed the many well-wishes from friends and family – I had probably 100 different messages/comments on my Facebook wall.  But aside from a couple of family members, I don’t think I got one signal phone call.  It’s just not considered “necessary” any more.  I am as guilty as the next person for doing the same thing – I often forget birthdays/anniversaries and rarely send cards, etc. So these general Facebook-type comments are all well and good – as long as you don’t think too much about it.

This month marked the 2nd anniversary of my dad’s death.  I had already deactivated my Facebook account prior to this date, but on that evening I decided to check my sister’s and my mom’s pages to see what comments had been left remembering him or supporting them.  Sure enough, both contained many comments from friends and family, remembering my dad and letting my mom and sister know they were in thoughts and prayers.  I wasn’t surprised since I had also experienced similar sentiments last year – many messages of support.   Yet, this year, for me, without a Facebook account, I received only 3 messages from very good friends, letting me know they remembered the significance of the day for me and were thinking of me.  It meant a lot.  It was real.  It also made me sad that more friends hadn’t reached out during such a sad time. It made me even more sad that I have not given those friends a reason to reach out – I haven’t exactly been reaching out myself.

Thus, the last few weeks have provided a startling insight – I have been deceiving myself.  Facebook, email and other such things have allowed me to wrap myself in a cocoon of selfishness, convinced that I had been staying connected with friends in the best way that I could given my busy schedule.  But it’s a lie.  A cop-out.  Because these actions and activities are not purposeful.  Writing “happy birthday” on someone’s Facebook wall after being prompted by a Facebook reminder does not show that person I took the time to remember and value that date or event for them.

Now, I realize this may sound very offensive. I am not saying that Facebook isn’t fun or serve a purpose.  It offers a wonderful way for people to stay in touch and reconnect.  I have had some great experiences “getting to know” people that I would otherwise have no way of learning much about in real life.  And just because I communicate with a friend on Facebook doesn’t mean I’m being insincere – of course I wish them a happy birthday!  And for a scatterbrain like me, a Facebook reminder is a lifesaver!  But I can’t help but note that Facebook generally has begun to dilute real life.  Is it better to receive 100 happy birthday Facebook messages, many from people you haven’t spoken to in years – or – would you prefer several phone calls from good friends that truly felt compelled and wanted to wish you well personally?

I’m beginning to see that, for me – where I am right now – I need more of the latter. I need those personal connections, to know that people actually care and care enough to make some effort. And I need to know that I care enough about people, that I am a good enough friend (… daughter, niece, cousin, whatever) to reach out to people on a more personal level.  That I am capable – and willing – to show them that I care. 

So, I’m certainly not in a position to judge. In the 2 weeks since I deactivated my account, I have not exactly been delivering cookies door-to-door and calling friends right and left.  But I have been more cognizant of life generally and looking for ways to connect.  I want to be a better friend. I want to be more present.  And for me, breaking my “Facebook habit” was the first step.


  1. i agree. it can be so impersonal --like the merry xmas text message. i should deactivate as well. good for you!

  2. Wow... this is great. And so very true... Not sure I will de-activate :) But I think it's so very true that we don't communicate they way we should... or used to on a personal level.
    Thank you for sharing this!

  3. You make really good points. I also notice that not only do I not blog as much, but it makes it so easy to post pictures and updates that when I do make blog posts about the same things, people don't comment/ read. So at times I've ended up not posting pictures until after I've done a blog post (because I really want to give the event more justice than just photos can do), but still it's easier for people to comment on photos and status updates than blog posts. I definitely like lots of aspects of it, but there are some definite downsides as well. I'm sorry about your father's death. I know anniversaries are so hard. Praying for you guys.